It's been 3 days since our last update, but it feels like forever.
Especially since there was so much stuff happening despite our organizational decision to pause and restructure.
As you're aware, we've paused our slack onboarding and vetting procedures and spent some time to real nail them down. But what did it mean for our mission of saving lives? Could we stop with that? I mean, realistically we couldn't - since there were too many things already in motion.
So I will keep it short - WE DID IT 🥳 🥳 🥳
Just kidding, it won't be short at all, and hope you enjoy the lengthy emotional update 🙏
Today we have evacuated a bus full of kids with cancer and got them to Poland. They are on the way to German hospital to take care of their immediate needs. Those same red cross kids we've been talking about for a week.
I'm happy. For the first time in weeks, I'm officially happy 😊
Because it's the most amazing feeling of both realizing that we pulled off a mega complex operation and saved lives. It was intense, it was surreal at times, but we did it. No one else could, Red Cross representatives came to us for help for a reason, cause everyone else gave up.
And it's not cause we have superpowers, we are the same as anyone else, except united and coordinated in a single stream of consciousness. And sometimes it's delusional, sometimes it's distressed, because how else could you do a task like this? How else can you organize a trip across the whole country, by bus, by train and then by the bus again. You gotta be crazy 🙃
Were we scared? Of course we were, I was in a constant fear something would go wrong. And it did go wrong, so many times, the last day of the operation that lasted almost a week started with a complete chaos. All the logistics broke down, we lost secured bus, we lost a route, we lost a team leader to mental distress. Our partners for this operation lost it mentally too, so we had to find new ones, because dropping the ball on these kids in the middle of the evacuation was not an option. We spent Thursday night awake rebuilding operation with all the key stakeholders, mapped out all the things and didn't sleep at all that night.
Then we took some naps during the day and worked with V. and I. to make sure all the pieces are in place. As a result, we organized even bigger evacuation operation than we intended originally - we rescued 67 people (!!!) instead of 25 originally planned.
The last leg of this trip was the "safest" but the trickiest, simply because of uncertainty of pulling it off. But people came through, and jumped into the fire with us, thankful to Kate who was willing to accompany the bus from IF to Lviv and to my brother that was helping on the ground in Lviv to make sure all the pieces are in piece. He filmed this video too, who knew AI developers can be such great camera men! haha. More fleshed out update coming soon.
We didn't sleep tonight either. Well some sleep was in-between check-ins, fortunately we have assembled an amazing team of "handlers" that followed bus remotely and stayed on top of each move. Special thanks to a new volunteer that joined today and just crushed it, @S. thank you. Just as we wanted to rest a bit, we suddenly had to call government official to let the bus through the Polish border given time sensitivity and medical conditions. Our words, our signatures, the trust between people that never met each other, all of this together made this happen. If this is not inspiring, then I don't know what is. I'm confident we will make mistakes but if we get at least a couple of such wins - it was worth it.
⚠️ UPD: as of early morning UA time today, this route is getting bombed with high precision missiles, can't believe the news... This is the most westerna part of Ukraine, just fyi, this is insane.
What's up after evacuations? 🤔
So we've evacuated those extra 41 passengers to Krakow as a part of this trip and as some of you know, the living situation in Krakow is BAD. The nature of our "customer" lifecycle is that evacuees mature into refugees and we have to help them find place to live. And basically there is nothing left to book or stay at in Krakow. But the most amazing i3_help-abroad team nailed it, they jumped into this as a swarm of rescue shepherds (!?) coordinating people to safe shelters from a combination of hosts and paid options.
We had to book some crazy expensive Airbnbs too, but that's the price and we paid using YOUR donations. This operation had quite some cost associated and we are still figuring out the details, but I want to make sure whoever donated money to us - can feel much better now cause we are getting some visible progress with them and we've only started deploying that kind of resource.
Organizational Stuff 😜
(attention, it's long and boring haha)
#i1_evacuation - status
We are ALMOST there with rebuilding driver dispatch process and getting things into Airtable away from Notion that was never designed to be a database. Need patience, dispatch and handler teams are working around the clock and need YOUR help.
Limited evacuations are continuing when they can be done safely. At this time there are several mission critical roles to be filled immediately! If one or more of the roles below seem like a good fit, please send a Direct Message to all of the following individuals (in one message): @Abby S. @Kelly E @Olha Lozovska AND @Thomas S CET (sending to all will expedite your vetting as leads are in different time zones). Please include the role(s) you’re interested in when you reach out.
-On the ground coordinators who are able to work IN western Ukraine.
-Coordinate transport of evacuees.
-EN/UA language (we can use at least one person who speaks Polish)
-On the ground crew who are able to travel between western Ukraine over the border.
-Coordinate transport of evacuees
-On the ground coordinators who are able to work IN Krakow
-Receive evacuees and coordinate transport to next location.
Housing Team and Transport Team roles (remote)
-Excellent manager, ability to organize, -coordinate and lead a team.
#team-hr - status
We are ALMOST there with new vetting process, thanks to Thomas, Muriel, Abby and others I probably don't even remember. We even got Veriff solution to work thanks to Ilya.
Igor is evaluating software solutions to plug the gap for the redundant cross channel communications, we've been given an instance of help desk solution and giving it a try. But if you are aware of solutions that connect support tickets, CRM, sms communications (twilio) + viber, telegram, whatsapp - please let me know @Artur Kiulian
Honestly, I wish I could write more but I haven't slept for two days and have been dealing with too much, I need to sign off and relax tomorrow, for real. We have some lives to save and we need to restore for that to be done right.
Thanks for being here ❤️
As always - feel free to reply on the thread and share your thoughts/emotions/feedback, always welcome.